Fox Sports Producer Puts NASCAR Fans in the Driver’s Seat with Audience Participation
Raceday makes appointment television viewing by effectively using award-winning real-time audience polling
Unless you have sat in a television production control room, or had boots on the ground on set, it is near impossible to understand the coordination that goes into producing live television. Anything can happen at any time, and the production team must respond in the moment.
So, why would seasoned television producers ever choose to add more uncertainty to the mix?
Because it makes for good television.
Jason Avery, the Coordinating Producer for Raceday, “the long-running and definitive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pre-race show” on Fox Sports 1, contends with the challenges of producing compelling television on a weekly basis, and making good television is his primary concern.
One of the key segments of Raceday includes real-time audience participation through the iPowow powered FOX Connect Live engagement platform. Using on screen calls to action and mobile device integration, Raceday connects their live viewers directly to the television content as it happens through polling and voting.
“When we have something controversial in the sport of NASCAR, or a topic that can be debated, we are sure to have it as a question for FOX Connect Live,” said Avery. “Obviously, we think of viewer participation and how we can achieve maximum fan interaction.”
Building a loyal television audience has never been more important as of late, or more difficult. Given the upheavals in the television industry with competition for viewership increasing and revenue opportunities more diluted by the rapid growth in multiple content channels, Avery and his team look to push limits on technology to give them an edge cultivating viewership. This includes adopting technology that allows television audiences at home to interact with and influence the conversation on their television sets while they watch.
“Consistently using [audience participation platform] iPowow week-to-week has been an effective tool and an advantage for us at FS1,” said Avery. “Fans who watch the show know each week they can participate live using iPowow and by staying consistent each week, RaceDay can become appointment TV for the viewer.”
Avery says that adding audience interactivity builds viewer expectations which in turn leads to better programming and better ratings.
“By that I mean, the viewer tunes in weekly because they know they will have a chance to vote live during the show every Sunday … This is an effective way to help with ratings. And we are always looking at ways of improving ratings.”
Further, live audience participation changes the dynamics between host and viewer. This breaking of the “fourth wall” helps to create more intimacy and affinity between the show and the audience.
“It brings to the program a true feeling of fans being able to interact Live during the show and make a difference in the final result,” said Avery. “We always stress to our host John Roberts to talk to the fans as FOX Connect Live is happening, and he does. So if you are at home voting, you feel as if you can make a difference with the final outcome of a vote. But more importantly, the host and analysts are speaking to you personally at home as you are interacting. It is a fun and entertaining way to bring the viewer directly into the show and participate live in real time.”
Avery’s efforts have paid off, too, with the show recently winning a Social TV Award for Best Mobile Phone Social TV Application for their 2015 Daytona 500 pre-show which saw iPowow voting and polling, as well as live, behind-the-scenes video pushed directly to viewers’ mobile devices as they played along.
In the future, audience participation platforms, like iPowow, will be a natural extension of the television production tool kit. And while coordinating all the moving parts of a television production has its own challenges, Avery sees audience participation as a necessary tool for television producers to engage and retain viewers – and that makes good television.